UPDATE: 10:43 p.m. EDT -- South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley struck a similar note to President Barack Obama in her response to his State of the Union address Tuesday night when she spoke about welcoming immigrants regardless of race or religion. In her official Republican address to the nation, Haley spoke about her own experience as the child of Indian immigrants and emphasized that immigration is part of America’s history.
“Immigrants have been coming to our shores for generations to live the dream that is America,” she said. “No one should feel unwelcome.”
Still, she added that the United States needed to stop immigrants entering the country illegally and to vet those coming legally to ensure national security. “We must not let in refugees whose intentions cannot be determined,” Haley said.
Ultimately, Haley called on Americans to not be swept up in the “angriest” voices, and said the country should welcome “properly vetted legal immigrants regardless of their race or religion.” This seemed like a clear reference to Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, who called for a total ban on Muslims entering the U.S. in December.
U.S. President Barack Obama gave his final presidential State of the Union Tuesday evening in a rousing address that focused on the future of the country, but that won’t be the last speech of the night. Soon after, representing the opposite side of the ideological aisle, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will deliver the Republican rebuttal. You can watch the response live here.
Haley gained national political clout last summer for acting quickly to remove the Confederate battle flag from her state’s statehouse grounds after a racially charged mass shooting at a predominantly black church in Charleston. The GOP response to the president’s remarks show that she’s a rising politician in the party, joining several leaders who have responded to the president after State of the Union speeches, including presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, Fla., and the current speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.
— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) January 6, 2016
Since the flag’s removal, Haley has been mentioned as a potential vice presidential running mate for whoever is the eventual nominee. While that prospect is quite a ways away, she has indicated that she would be open to the idea.
Haley is currently serving her second term as governor of South Carolina. She was the first woman to be elected to the office and is one of the youngest governors in the country. Her handling of the flag incident was not the first time she received good press — at least not in her home state. She received the largest margin of victory for her re-election in the past 24 years and has overseen jobless rates hitting record lows, according to her official biography.
Haley’s time in office, aside from the flag removal, has been defined by tax cuts for small businesses and education reforms. She is the daughter of Indian immigrants and is married to a captain in the Army National Guard. She has two teenage children.
-International Business Times staff writer Abigail Abrams contributed to this story.